Practice Like an Athlete
This is the second in the series of five blogs about being an athlete on the golf course. The first was “Move Away From Comfortable” and in it, we talked about viewing a game of golf as a soccer player views a game or a baseball player views a pitch. To be great, you need to learn to fit yourself into the situation, the golf course and the pressure instead of trying to fit those things into your game. Today, we are going to talk about practicing like an athlete.
Did you play other sports when you were growing up? Did you play soccer, basketball or volleyball? If so, what was the best thing that could happen at practice? PLAY! When Coach rolled the ball out and you slipped a penny over your t-shirt and scrimmaged, all was good! You were instantly involved and part of the action. Your goal was clearly to score or defend. Compare that to running a weave drill or practicing serves. In the drills, your goal was probably not to screw up, at least that was mine. You were somewhat focused, but also a little chatting was going on. It was fun, but not as engaging.
Spin it forward and think about your golf practice. If given the choice to roll the ball out and play or stand on the driving range and practice, many of you will choose the practice. What causes this shift in what is considered fun? Shouldn't golf be fun? How in the world did American golf evolve into a range centered sport when most courses in Scotland don’t even offer ranges. How did your basketball coach know what drills to run at practice? By watching your play in games and scrimmages. How many golf pros out there watch their players on the course? Only a handful!
Would your golf game improve more quickly if you decided to play more golf? YES!!! Here is how you can do it. Tee it up! Keep score! Play to make the lowest score possible every time you play! That seems simple, but our mindset has changed so much that when not playing in a tournament or for money, many players discount the round. They don’t play for a score or they don’t focus as they should. Every time you step on the course, you need to play as you want to play when it counts.
The idea of turning it on and off doesn’t work. Learning to score means that every time you are on the course, you are striving for that goal. Golf needn’t be pretty to be effective. That can only be learned on the course, where the goal is clear. Golf is often pretty on the range, but that doesn’t always lead to effectiveness. When you spend too much time on the range, your goals can become cloudy and you might get caught up more in pretty instead of effective, which is the essence of golf.
If you have an hour to practice, go play a short loop on the course. Each shot in golf is unique. When you play, you will face different conditions, lies, targets and slopes. You will need to fit your game to the situation. There is no way to simulate this on the range. Get off the range and onto the course!